THE A-Z OF THE BEST COMPILATIONS OF 2013-PART 1.

THE A-Z OF THE BEST COMPILATIONS OF 2013-PART 1. 

Considering how many compilations have been released during 2013, picking the fifty best compilations wasn’t easy. After all, I’ve listened to hundreds of compilations. They’ve come from the four corners of the globe, featuring every musical genre known to man. This includes everything from Acid House, Afro-beat, blues, Chicago House, electronica, funk, jazz, Latin, Philly Soul, prog rock, psychedelia, reggae, rock, Southern Soul and zydeco. If I was to sum up the compilations released during 2013 using one word, it would be eclectic. That describes the compilations released during 2013. So whatever your musical taste, there’s something for you. My list of the fifty best compilations reflects how eclectic a year 2013 has been. Without further ado, here’s my fifty best compilations of 2013, in A to Z order.

A ROAD LEADING HOME-SONGS BY DAN PENN AND OTHERS.

When eventually, someone decides to write the definitive history of Southern Soul, Dan Penn’s name will loom large. At last, one of Southern Soul’s reluctant heroes will receive the credit they deserve. A quiet, unassuming man, Dan Penn’s modesty belies that fact that, for over thirty years, he was one of the most influential and successful people in Southern Soul. During that period, Dan worked with Aretha Franklin, Irma Thomas, James Carr, Solomon Burke, Dionne Warwick and Janis Joplin. Along with a variety of songwriting partners, Dan Penn cowrote numerous Southern Soul classics. 

Dan’s most successful songwriting partnership was with Spooner Oldham. Together, they cowrote numerous Southern Soul classics. The songs that Dan and Spooner cowrote are just a few of the near five-hundred tracks Dan Penn cowrote. Many of these were with various other songwriting partners. This includes the twenty-four tracks that feature on Ace Records recent compilation A Road Leading Home-Songs By Dan Penn and Others. It’s the followup to the critically acclaimed and award-winning compilation Sweet Inspiration: The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham which Ace Records released in 2011. What a followup A Road Leading Home-Songs By Dan Penn and Others is.

For A Road Leading Home-Songs By Dan Penn and Others, compilers Bob Dunham and Tony Rounce have dug deep. They’ve discovered a compelling collection of tracks. Mind you, they’d plenty of choice. After all, Dan Penn wrote nearly five-hundred tracks during his long, illustrious and successful career. With so many tracks to choose from, narrowing this down to a mere twenty-four couldn’t have been easy. What Bob and Tony have chosen is a mixture of familiar tracks, classics and hidden gems. Each sit comfortably side-by-side on A Road Leading Home-Songs By Dan Penn and Others. However, there’s more to Dan than a songwriter.

Describing Dan Penn as a songwriter as a songwriter is an understatement. He’s also a singer, musician and producer. Dan was just as comfortable working as a producer and produced The Box Tops, Esther Phillips, Solomon Burke and Patti LaBelle and The Bluebells. Then there was Dan’s career as a singer songwriter. Although it neither replicated the success he enjoyed as a songwriter, nor producer, Dan released a series of well received albums. It seemed that whatever Dan Penn did, he did well. Despite this, Dan Penn remains a quiet, unassuming and modest man. A Road Leading Home-Songs By Dan Penn and Others is Ace Records’ fitting and lovingly compiled tribute to a true legend of Southern Soul, Dan Penn.

ACID-MYSTERONS INVADE THE JACKIN’ ZONE: CHICAGO ACID AND EXPERIMENTAL HOUSE 1986-93.

Acid-Mysteron Invade The Jackin’ Zone: Chicago Acid and Experimental House 1986-93 is no ordinary compilation. Quite the opposite. Instead, it’s a luxurious double-album, from Soul Jazz Records that’s housed in substantial box. Within the box, are the two discs plus a couple of bonus items. There’s a a limited edition set of postcards and a graphic novel by Paolo Parish, entitled Mysterons Invade The Jackin’ Zone, which is set in Chicago in 1986. All that’s just a bonus, what really matters is the music on Acid-Mysteron Invade The Jackin’ Zone: Chicago Acid and Experimental House 1986-93.

For newcomers to Chicago House, it’s much more than an introduction to the music. It’s an introduction to some of the pioneers of Chicago House. Without the technology and software producers take for granted, pioneers like Mr. Fingers, Virgo, Adonis and J.M. Silk. These are the people who were there at the dawn of a musical revolution. Since then, house music has continued to evolve, with numerous sub-genres have been born. That’s ensured that house music neither becomes stale nor complacent. Born out of disco and boogie, house music has become one of the most important musical genres in the history of music. It’s enjoyed a longevity that few people would’ve forecast. Mind you with several generations of musical innovators breathing new life and energy into house music, then that longevity isn’t a surprise. As house music approaches its thirtieth birthday, then Acid-Mysteron Invade The Jackin’ Zone: Chicago Acid and Experimental House 1986-93 is an important reminder of house music’s roots.

ACID RAIN: DEFINITIVE ORIGINAL ACID AND DEEP HOUSE 1985-1991.

Acid Rain: Definitive Original Acid and Deep House 1985-1991 was released by Harmless Records in August 2013. Compiled by Terry Farley, it features sixty-one tracks spread over five discs. The six year period Acid Rain: Definitive Original Acid and Deep House 1985-1991 covers is the golden age of house music. Born in Chicago, in the early eighties, this period marked the birth of a new, innovative and revolutionary musical genre which celebrated its twenty-fifth birthday.  

The release of Acid Rain: Definitive Original Acid and Deep House 1985-1991 is the perfect way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Second Summer Of Love. To celebrate this illustrious anniversary, what was needed was a lovingly compiled, box set, that was a reminder of those heady, hedonistic days of 1988. That’s what we got, thanks to Terry Farley. He’s chosen well, and has dug deep, deeper than he’s dug before. Terry Farley chose sixty-one tracks which include old favourites, classics and hidden gems. Most of the tracks are innovative and groundbreaking. This includes contributions from pioneering producers. 

Despite the lack of a large budget, recording contract or recording studio, producers were able to record music that was revolutionary, music that was imaginative, innovative and went on to influence further generations of producers. Some of that music is nearly thirty-years old, but has aged well. Indeed, I’d go as far as describe the music as timeless. That certainly is a good way to describe much of the music on Acid Rain: Definitive Original Acid and Deep House 1985-1991. Timeless, innovative and influential describes the music on Acid Rain: Definitive Original Acid and Deep House 1985-1991, which is a glorious reminder of the heady, hedonistic days of the Second Summer Of Love.

AFROBEAT AIRWAYS 2-RETURN FLIGHT TO GHANA 1974-1983.

The best way to describe Afrobeat Airways 2-Return Flight To Ghana 1974-1983, is a luxurious and lovingly compiled compilation. It’s contained in a heavyweight cardboard slipcase. Within it are a forty-four page book and separate slipcase which contains the CD. Everything about Afrobeat Airways 2-Return Flight To Ghana 1974-1983 reeks of quality. Other reissue companies should look at what Analog Africa do and make this the industry standard. After all, many people, myself included, want a quality product. Many people also want to know more about the music and the people who made it. 

Describing the sleeve-notes to Afrobeat Airways 2-Return Flight To Ghana 1974-1983 as extensive and informative seems an understatement. It’s a labor of love. There are ten essays in the sleeve-notes to Afrobeat Airways 2-Return Flight To Ghana 1974-1983. Nine of the interviews are by Vikran Sohonie, who deserves the utmost credit for his contribution. His love of Ghanian music shines through and his enthusiasm is almost infectious. It’s well worth taking the time to read and absorb the sleeve-notes. It helps you to understand the music. Ironically, to do the sleeve-notes justice, it takes longer to read them than listen to Afrobeat Airways 2-Return Flight To Ghana 1974-1983. Having said that, it takes several listens to even come close to appreciating the subtleties and nuances of what is some of the best music to come out of Ghana between 1974 and 1983. 

On Afrobeat Airways 2-Return Flight To Ghana 1974-1983, everything from funk, gospel, jazz, psychedelia, rock and soul combined. The result is thirteen delicious slices of Afrobeat and highlife. Uplifting, joyous, spiritual and infectiously catchy, it’s also funky, jazz-tinged, soulful and lysergic. It’s music that has a foot in four decades. Influenced by fifties and sixties jazz, sixties psychedelia sits next to seventies funk and Blaxploitation. There’s also a twist of rock, gospel and soul. All these influences play their part in some glorious music, music that truly deserves a wider audience.

AMERICANA 2.

Two years after the release of their first compilation of blue-eyed soul, Americana, Zaf Chowdry and Mark Taylor return with the followup, Americana 2. It will be released by BBE Music in November 2013. Americana 2, which features sixteen tracks from the seventies and eighties, is described on the album cover as “more blue-eyed soul and A.O.R. sounds from the land of the free.” That may be the case. However, in some ways, Americana 2 was different to its predecessor.

The best way to describe the music on Americana 2 is contemporary. Yes it’s still blue-eyed soul, but with a more contemporary sound. As for the music on Americana 2, it’s much more eclectic. In some ways this is fitting. After all the term “Americana” covers a whole host of musical styles. Definitions of Americana vary, but essentially, it’s contemporary music incorporating various American roots musics. This could include everything from blues, bluegrass, country, folk, R&B, rockabilly or roots rock. As you see, Americana is a broad musical church. Fittingly, Americana 2 was an all-encompassing compilation. That’s what made it a must-have compilation.

Americana 2 is crammed full of quality, contemporary music. This includes private pressings, rarities and forgotten hidden gems. It’s exquisite and eclectic selection of music. Zaf Chowdry and Mark Taylor see to that. They’ve dug deep into their respective record collections, digging deeper than they’ve dug before. What they’ve come up with, is some of the rarest records they own. In sharing them with you, they save you a small fortune. That’s what it would cost to buy the sixteen tracks on Americana 2. Indeed, that’s if you could find them. Many of these tracks were pressed privately or were on albums that were released in small numbers. Tracking them down could take a lifetime and prove a frustrating search. To save you the trouble, frustration and running up a huge overdraft, Zaf Chowdry and Mark Taylor bring them together on Americana 2, their latest compilation of contemporary blue-eyed soul.

 

ANGOLA SOUNDTRACK 2.

For too long, Angolan music has been overlooked. While we’re familiar with the music of Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Ghana, record companies have overlooked Angola’s musical past. Not any more. Samy Ben Redjeb’s Analog Africa released their first compilation of Angolan music in 2010. Three years later, comes the much anticipated followup, Angola Soundtrack 2. Featuring twenty-one tracks, Angola Soundtrack 2 is of the quality I’ve come to expect from Analog Africa. 

Analog Africa’s approach to compilations is to concentrate on quality, not quantity. Angola Soundtrack 2 is only their fifteenth compilation. Rather than releasing new compilations each month, Analog Africa take time and care, producing lovingly complied and lavish compilations. Angola Soundtrack 2 is proof of this. Featuring in-depth sleeve-notes, full of interviews with some of the musicians that featured on Angola Soundtrack 2, this sets the standard for compilations. It’s obvious time and effort has gone into the making of Angola Soundtrack 2, an eclectic collection of tracks.

There’s everything from Afro-beat, funk, jazz, Latin, merengue and soul. Musical influences and genres melt into one. Joyous, uplifting, irresistible and infectiously catchy describes the music on Angola Soundtrack 2. So does soulful, heartfelt and impassioned. Full of subtleties, surprises and hidden secrets, Angola Soundtrack 2 is the perfect introduction to Angolan music. It’s also the perfect followup to Angola Soundtrack. Just like Angola Soundtrack, Angola Soundtrack 2 is a tantalising taste of Angola rich and vibrant musical legacy courtesy of Analog Africa.

BANG-MIXED AND COMPILED BY TERRY HUNTER.

Back in July 2013, Terry Hunter released Bang which he’d mixed and compiled. It’s a double album where Terry Hunter replicates an evening at Chicago’s hottest club night Bang. Disc one features the fourteen tracks, while disc two sees Terry seamlessly mixes the fourteen eclectic tracks together. It’s one of the tightest and smoothest mixes you’ll hear this year.

While DJ mixes are literally two a penny, one thing that differs, is their quality. Bang-Mixed and Compiled by Terry Hunter is one of the best. Featuring an eclectic and intriguing selection of music, there’s surprises aplenty in-store for the listener. Eschewing tried and tested tracks, Terry digs deeper, compiling a compelling selection of fourteen tracks. His track selection is flawless. No wonder. He’s a veteran DJ, with twenty-five years experience behind him. He’s put that experience to good use on Bang-Mixed and Compiled by Terry Hunter, which features one of the best DJ mixes of 2013. During that musical journey, Terry Hunter demonstrates, just what it takes to create a top class DJ mix.

 

BLUESIN’ BY THE BAYOU.

Bluesin’ By The Bayou, which was released by Ace Records in May 2013, is described as: “low down, dirty and greasy blues from Louisiana.” As if that wasn’t enough reason to discover the delights of Bluesin’ By The Bayou, compiler Ian Saddler had added some zydeco for good measure. I was hooked. After all, blues and zydeco are a potent combination. That’s not even taking into account fourteen previously unreleased tracks. That was it. I had to grab a copy of Bluesin’ By The Bayou and see what all the fuss was about. This wasn’t a case of over enthusiastic marketing. No. Bluesin’ The Bayou was the real deal.

That’s thanks to Ian Saddler’s crate-digging skills. You embark on a mesmeric musical journey, where Ian combines blues and zydeco. This including fourteen tracks that never before. Music this good, doesn’t belong in the vaults of a record company. Instead, it should be where people can enjoy. That’s the case here. Indeed, just as you think you’ve heard a track that can’t possibly be bettered, it is. That’s no mean feat. All killer, filler describes Bluesin’ By The Bayou perfectly. Featuring a feast of blues and zydeco, Bluesin’ By The Bayou is one of the best blues compilations of 2013.

BOPPIN’ BY THE BAYOU-MORE DYNAMITE.

Back in May 2013, Ace Records released Bluesin’ By The Bayou, a compilation of “low down, dirty and greasy blues from Louisiana.” With some Zydeco thrown in for good measure by compiler Ian Saddler, Bluesin’ By The Bayou was a potent musical cocktail. The music on Bluesin’ By The Bayou was recorded at J.D. Miller and Eddie Shuler’s studios in Louisiana. For the followup to Bluesin’ By The Bayou, the recently released Boppin’ By The Bayou-More Dynamite, which was recently released by Ace Records, compiler Ian Saddler has dug deeper.

Not only does Boppin’ By The Bayou-More Dynamite feature tracks recorded at J.D. Miller and Eddie Shuler’s studios, but tracks recorded at Carol Rachou and Charles “Dago” Redlich’s studios. Each producer had their own approach to recording as was apparent on Boppin’ By The Bayou-More Dynamite.

Boppin’ By The Bayou-More Dynamite picks up where Louisiana,” Bluesin’ By The Bayou left off. This means more “low down, dirty and greasy blues from Louisiana.” There’s also rockabilly, country, rock ‘n’ roll, zydeco and swamp pop. Quite simply, Boppin’ By The Bayou-More Dynamite is an introduction to the music of Louisiana. An rich and eclectic selection of music, there’s ten tracks that have been released before, plus eighteen previously unreleased tracks. It’s compelling, enthralling, eclectic and mesmeric musical journey that’s a fitting followup to Bluesin’ By The Bayou.

BRAZILIAN BEATS 7.

For lovers of Latin music, one of the most eagerly awaited compilation series is Mr. Bongo Records’ Brazilian Beats. The first instalment of this critically acclaimed compilation series was released thirteen years ago, back in 2000, just as the new millennia dawned. Little did the realise that they’d launched one of the most successful compilation series of recent years, one which helped popularise Brazilian music. 

The next volume, Brazilian Beats 2, was released a year later in 2001. Volume 3 followed in 2002, with volume 4 released in 2003. Then after a gap of two years, 2005 saw the release of volumes 5 and 6. Since then, apart from a box set containing each volume of Brazilian Beats, there’s been no further volumes of Brazilian Beats. That was until recently.

New names and familiar faces feature on Brazilian Beats 7. Best described as eclectic, everything from bossa nova, samba, soul, funk, jazz, rock and psychedelia can be heard on Brazilian Beats 7. This is a world away from most of the tired and predictable compilations of Brazilian music released in recent years. Instead, the music on Brazilian Beats 7 is innovative, inventive and eclectic. Brazilian Beats 7 also joyous, uplifting and irresistible. It’s a welcome return for the the Brazilian Beats series. After eight years away, the Brazilian Beats compilation is back and back with a bang with Brazilian Beats 7, the latest in what is one of the best compilations of Brazilian music money can buy.

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